Eight Ways to Add More Vegetables to Your Diet
Eating more vegetables is something many of us need to work on. Most of us aren’t getting even close to the 2-3 cups of vegetables we should be eating each day. Part of the reason may be that we think of vegetables in very narrow terms - either as salads or a side dish - without considering other ways they can be worked into the diet. It’s no secret that vegetables are some of the healthiest foods you can eat. Aside from the fact that they’re packed with vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients, veggies are also great sources of fiber, which means they can help fill you up and keep you regular, too. On top of that, you can get all these nutritional benefits without spending huge numbers of calories.
Sure, you could eat more salads and side dishes, but there are other ways to work more vegetables into your day. Here are some of my favorite ways to get more vegetables into my day. Maybe they’ll work for you, too.
Tips to Add More Vegetables in Your Diet
1. Add to smoothies. Green smoothies are popular and an easy way to add more leafy greens to your diet. Baby greens have a milder flavor than more mature greens, so you might want to try baby spinach, arugula or kale leaves if you’re concerned about the taste. Although a little bit of fruit (like pineapple or mango) can help take the edge off. Aside from leafy greens, other veggies like cooked carrots, winter squash, beets and pumpkin work great in smoothies as well.
2. Have vegetables at breakfast. Most of us associate fruits or fruit juices with breakfast, but there are plenty of opportunities to work some veggies into your first meal of the day. You can add vegetables to your omelet in the morning, or top your eggs with some tomato salsa. Instead of topping your low-fat cottage cheese with fruit, try it with diced vegetables instead. And if you’ve never had savory oatmeal in the morning, you might want to give it a try. Treat steel cut oats like any other whole grain. Cook in water or broth, add herbs or spices and top with veggies.
3. Use as toppings for fish, poultry, meat or tofu. In addition to having vegetables as a side dish for dinner, you can also make a quick salsa. Or, stir-fry some flavorful vegetables and use as a topping for grilled fish or chicken. Try fresh tomatoes diced with a little onion and fresh basil on poultry, or a salsa made from diced cucumber, bell pepper, onion and lime juice on top of fish. Or, quickly sauté some onions and mushrooms with a little white wine and use to dress up some roasted tofu.
4. Add to one-dish meals. One dish meals like hearty soups, stews and casseroles provide plenty of opportunities for sneaking more veggies into your meals. Soups and stews can take on an abundance of veggies. Those that take longer to cook, like carrots, can be added early, and then you can toss in quick-cooking veggies like spinach or broccoli towards the end of cooking time. Try adding different chopped veggies to your favorite recipes for foods like meat loaf, pasta sauce and casseroles. You may be surprised how much you can add, and you might like your ‘veggie-heavy’ version even better than the original.
5. Use for snacks. Vegetables are such naturals for snacks. Raw broccoli or cauliflower florets, carrots or celery dipped in some salsa, plain yogurt or hummus can help satisfy your craving for something crunchy, and keep you away from salty, greasy chips. A cup of vegetable soup makes a terrific, satisfying snack, too.
6. Have a main dish salad for a meal. If your dinners are the typical protein, starch and veggie, you may get only a single serving vegetable at your meal. One way to boost your veggie intake is to make a main dish salad instead. Start by loading up your salad bowl with a variety of leafy greens and an array of fresh vegetables. It’s also nice to add some cooked vegetables, like steamed or roasted veggies that have been allowed to cool for additional texture. Toss with light dressing and top with some protein, and you’ll be getting several servings of vegetables in one bowl.
7. Add to grain dishes. Whole grains get a flavor boost when they’re cooked with some vegetables, and it’s a great way to work more vegetables into your day. Chop your choice of vegetables finely (onions, mushrooms, tomatoes, peppers, carrots and squash work great), and sauté in a little oil to soften. Then add your whole grain and liquid and cook as usual.
8. Double up. One of the simplest ways to eat more vegetables is to simply double your portion, so get in the habit of dishing up extra when you’re home. Most restaurants will allow you to skip the starchy side and double the vegetables, so make that request of your server whenever you’re out. And some vegetables can do “double duty” as both starch and vegetable. You can pulse raw cauliflower in the food processor and stir-fry it into “cauliflower rice.” Or, cook veggies along with your potatoes before mashing (try broccoli, carrots or turnips for this) to reduce starch and calories, and boost your veggie intake all at the same time.
(Susan Bowerman - Director - Herbalife Worldwide Nutrition, Education & Training)